Writing has to do with words, in particular, the choice of words. A good stock of vocabulary is of course important. But other than that, you also need to know the exact meaning of each word so that you will use it correctly. There are many words that may sound similar, but they have different meanings, and thus they are confusing.
Mellow / Melodious
Mellow: mature; soft and pure; rich and full.
e.g. As he continues to age, he become more mellow and compassionate.
Melodious: tuneful; pleasant to the ear.
e.g. He voice is melodious; he should take up singing.
Reign / Rein
Reign means to rule over; rein means to control (e.g. an animal)
e.g. The emperor reigned over the country for decades.
e.g. You must rein in your hot temper.
e.g. Beware of giving free rein to your reason. (i.e. not release from any restraint).
Defuse / Diffuse
Defuse means to decrease the danger, such as deactivate a bomb; diffuse means to spread over a wide area.
e.g. It is difficult to defuse the conflicts in the
e.g. Once you open the bottle of fragrant herbs, their scents will diffuse.
Genteel / Gentle
Genteel: well-bred, polite; imitating the lifestyle of the rich.
e.g. Your friend is genteel. Is he very rich?
e.g. All along he has been living in genteel poverty. He is not practical.
Faint / Feint
Faint (both as a noun and a verb) means loss of consciousness; feint means a misleading attack.
e.g. She fainted when she heard the bad news.
e.g. The robber, who gave a feint, began to attack the policeman.
Studio / Studious
Studio: a place where pictures are taken, or films are made.
e.g. The film was made in a
Studious: fond of study; careful and thoughtful.
e.g. To be a good scientist, you must be studious.
Hail / Hale
Hail means to greet or salute; hale means healthy and strong.
e.g. "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee."
e.g. A man is hale when his complexion is rosy.
e.g. This dress is too loose for you (not tight enough).
Some time / Sometime / Sometimes
Some time means a period of time.
Sometime, as an adverb, means approximately; as an adjective, means former or occasional.
Sometimes, as an adverb, means now and then.
e.g. We have been for the train for some time.
e.g. Why don't you visit me sometime?
e.g. She was my sometime girlfriend.
e.g. Sometimes I like her, and sometimes I don't -- that's our relationship.
Accountable to / Accountable for
Accountable to means responsible to someone; accountable for means responsible for something or having to explain.
e.g. The Manager has to be accountable to the Board; he has to be accountable for all his business decisions.
Lose / Loose
Lose means being unable to find; loose means to set free or to become less tight.
e.g. Here is your ticket to the game; don't lose it.
e.g. Don't lose your temper (become angry).
e.g. You are too loose with your children (you have little or no control over them).
Impersonate / Personate
Impersonate is to copy or imitate a person for fun; personate is to claim to be another person with the purpose to cheat or deceive.
e.g. The comedian impersonated the President to entertain the audience.
e.g. Someone personated the client, and took the money.
Recourse / Resort
Recourse means turning to others or something for help; resort means to turn to for help (both noun and verb).
e.g. His only recourse was the police.
e.g. The police should not resort to violence to stop the peaceful demonstration.
e.g. The army decided using violence as the last resort.
Decorative / Decorous
Decorative: having an artistic or showy effect.
e.g. The ballroom with all the ribbons and flowers are very decorative.
Decorous: showing good taste.
e.g. The Princess looks decorous in that simple but elegant dress.
Foul / Fowl
Foul means dirty or offensive; fowl a fowl is a bird, such as hen.
e.g. The smoke from that factory fouls the air. (as a verb)
e.g. He always speak foul language, even in the presence of ladies. (as an adjective)
e.g. We are going to have a roast fowl for Thanksgiving.
Admit / Admit of
Admit means to confess an act; admit of means allow of or leave room for.
e.g. He did not admit taking the key without permission.
e.g. The circumstance admits of no delay.
e.g. His admission of guilt shows his honest personality.
e.g. There is no admittance for error.
Copyright© by Stephen Lau